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Reaching global equilibrium: The value of consent and user preference

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The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) this year started a ripple of privacy legislation across the globe, with governments evaluating whether current laws are enough to protect the personal data of users in our increasingly digital world.

In the U.S., California leads the way with a privacy act that gives consumers more transparency into data collection, and national changes could be coming if Senator Ron Wyden’s proposal for similar federal law is accepted. Globally, draft bills focused on data privacy are also under review in India and Kenya.

So what does this mean for digital players, and especially global publishers?

At present, many aren’t sure. The mix of regional, country-level and international rules is confusing, and leaving content providers struggling to establish how to balance compliance with user experience. But the good news is that the answer can be understood from the data privacy revolution itself.

The data status quo

Firstly, let’s look at the impact of new laws to date. Leading up to implementation, responses were mixed with some publishers adopting GDPR-compliant procedures in a bid to avoid the legislation’s hefty fines and others merely blocking European traffic to mitigate risk of non-compliance. But, even now the dust has settled, there’s still uncertainty. Publications such as the Los Angeles Times, for example, are still trying to “identify technical compliance solutions that will provide all readers with [its] award-winning journalism.”

More recently, the pending enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and proposed legislation in New Jersey and Washington state has sparked discussion about the need for comprehensive national law to reduce complexity. Though opinion remains divided, key players in Silicon Valley argue that state power shouldn’t be leveraged to reward favored companies. Exceptions, such as Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, passionately believe the ‘industrial data complex’ must be better managed by law to protect consumers.

While largely still unknown, the core focus of the potential federal data privacy law – the Consumer Data Protection Act (CDPA) – is strengthening online security and increasing consumer choice over how companies use their data. Although not as stringent as the GDPR, legislators in Washington state are working to create a policy that is reflective of the EU’s privacy regulation. The law is likely to restrict data collection and usage and increase data access for individuals. It’s also expected to require annual reports from organizations on the steps they are taking to diminish the risk of data protection and introduce penalties, including fines and even imprisonment.

Where do we go now?

Initially, some believed that the GDPR would act as a force to reign in the duopoly – but that hasn’t been the case so far. Despite its delay in committing to the IAB’s Privacy and Consent Framework — which put hundreds of publishers at risk of a fine — Google recently celebrated its “best quarter ever.” And Facebook has also seen revenue increase – up 33 percent in the last quarter year-on-year.

There is a useful lesson to be taken from the journey so far: the importance of acknowledging and embracing the value of consent, and user preference. The GDPR and related legislation are a direct response to the growing consumer need for transparency in data usage – covering the purposes of data collection and its application. There is a lot to be gained by championing greater consumer choice, not just trust that helps build stronger relationships, but also increased insight. Savvy publishers are already making an effort to understand the impact of consent – or lack thereof – has on monetization.

In practice, this means offering a clear consent option. Publishers have a variety of options at their disposal to best manage this, such as privacy notification pop-ups or other user messaging delivered via Consent Management Platforms (CMPs), to acquire permission on specific data purposes before users enter sites. But while consent is core to operating ethically, it is crucial not to forget about user experience.

By adopting customized communications where the creative blends seamlessly with a site’s branding and imagery, publishers can ensure these messages are in line with user expectations.

In the next few years, as global data protection legislation reaches a state of global equilibrium, publishers will need to carefully consider how to gain user consent, while streamlining messages for optimal performance. Publishers must embed their legal obligations into day-to-day operations and return the focus to consumers. And, no matter what the future holds for the regulatory landscape, giving users a greater level of control over their data is essential to the sustainability of the digital content ecosystem.

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Brand Positioning

Brand Refresh And New Digital Experience for Ombudsman Service

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For some, complaining isn’t easy – but Ombudsman Services has created a new industry-leading digital platform to ease the resolution process for disputes between consumers and businesses. It has also launched a new brand identity that reflects the future direction of the business and brand strategy. 

Defining the brand and what digital means for customers and clients has led the digital experience design and helped shape the overall consumer experience. 

 Working in partnership with digital agency Code Computerlove and branding design specialists Halo, the not-for-profit organisation has created a clear brand proposition and digital strategy that is guiding its digital transformation programme.

The new site – www.ombudsman-services.org – has been completely redesigned by Code Computerlove with clearer navigation and user journey. The tone of voice and content has been created to reflect Ombudsman Services’ brand proposition and identity, created by Halo, with straightforward, clear and friendly language.

As the UK’s largest independent multi-sector ombudsman, Ombudsman Services resolved more than 90,000 consumer complaints in 2017 alone. As specialists in the energy and communications sectors, the organisation works with businesses to help them improve their complaint-handling process and customer service more generally.

Jodi Hamilton, head of marketing and communications at Ombudsman Services, said: “The new digital functionality and features we have introduced follow in-depth consumer research – specifically looking at how users are behaving within digital channels and their future demands.

“But this is just the beginning. Digital interfaces provide unrivalled insights and we will be using ongoing performance measurement to continually evolve our digital effectiveness.

“Our aim is to respond to customer needs through the digitalisation of the business, aligning digital with the changing business and brand strategy.

“Improving our digital capabilities lies at the heart of our organisational strategy and the changes that we have introduced are all born out of in-depth user and insight into customer needs.

“Visitors to our site now benefit from a new design, an easy-to-navigate website and a fast, intuitive digital complaints process. The improved platform has also increased internal efficiencies and our ability to respond quickly – something that both consumers and businesses have come to expect in the digital age.

“We also have a wealth of data and we’re exploring new ideas for added value services and ways of working with our partners.

“Overall our aim is to appeal to a wider audience, increase users and make our services accessible and easy to use. We want to deliver a best in breed service to consumers as well as service providers signed up to us.”

Nick Ellis, strategy director at Halo, added: “Working with Ombudsman Services has been an inspiring journey. Developing a strategic proposition and design architecture, that’s both representative of the business today and as it evolves for the future. With all this in mind, we have produced a brand that’s digital first, designed for contemporary consumers, accessible and engaging. A brand that does the right thing.”

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Not just your standard logo: is it time to animate your branding?

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Logos and branding live the majority of their lives in the static world of paper and print. When used for digital there's not much variation or excitement, except maybe for a quirky loading page animation with an element that might jump up and down but that’s about as good as it gets. As we move into 2019 this overlooked element could be getting a better and bigger part in the branding line up.

Recently the website building company, Squarespace, upgraded its branding from a static and rounded logo to a sharp edged, elegant – and get this – constantly moving visual. The logo was created in collaboration with DIA, who are a New York based creative agency. Their aim was to see if Squarespace could be identified not only through visuals but also movement. The logo now sits on a face of a 3D cube which swipes and rotates to the other sides of the cube, these in turn show the other logo marks (abstract, word etc.) of Squarespace. Through the use of this movement the logo embodies its name and literally becomes a square moving through space.

With the use of digital design, brands are able to communicate through a visual animated movement instead of only static marks, innovating how consumers see and interact with brands. Logo designers will now be forced to add more on to the method of logo building, which usually involves hours of sitting at a desk measuring and drawing to create the perfect logo, and now think about not only how it will look but how it will move.

An animated logo can be uploaded to multiple social media platforms. Video content is widely popular on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook etc. and creating an animated logo allows users to interact and share the brand in a way they were never able to do before. People can associate brands with these animated and fun elements.

The concept of creating an animated logo is not where this needs to stop. It can be furthered into the branding itself. Companies can also create sharable animated elements such as stickers and GIF’s to promote their brand. An example of an agency using this is Moross Studios, who earlier this year released a set of personalised stickers for Instagram Stories using phrases and visuals that best represent them as a company.

This kind of interaction on social platforms between user and brand shows how animated branding elements, such as the logos, have evolved from the static printed logo to becoming an interactive digital experience. Conveying how it was once an overlooked element of the branding process but now could be the next big step in creating a memorable brand to consumer relationships.

Emma Schilperoort is a content producer at Wilderness

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Your Ultimate Guide to International ECommerce Expansion

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If you are like half of all US eCommerce retailers, you only sell in the US. You could be missing out on a terrific growth opportunity in international eCommerce. ECommerce is king in South Korea and China. China’s eCommerce market has surpassed the US to be the biggest in the world, according to Forbes.

Plenty of Chinese businesses have found a way to sell to US consumers and ship those orders cheaply (though this may change with the withdrawal of the US from an international postal treaty). The challenge for US businesses that want to break into markets in Asia, and also in Europe, Australia, and South America, is to find a way to deliver the same great service to international customers that they offer domestically.

The internet has made cross-border communication instantaneous. You will still have some hurdles to overcome if you want to expand your eCommerce business internationally, such as establishing ecommerce fulfillment services in your major international markets. Here is your ultimate guide to expanding your eCommerce business internationally.

Opportunities and Challenges of Expanding Your ECommerce Business Internationally

Shopify predicts that international eCommerce sales will reach $4 trillion within the next two years. If you want to tap into the global potential of your eCommerce business, you’ll need to invest in some additional infrastructure to facilitate international sales.

You don’t have to take on the world all at once. Your international growth can be organic. You can start with one country and expand incrementally. Once you have mastered the challenges of selling internationally in one country (and reaped the rewards, in higher profits), you’ll be better prepared to take your eCommerce business to other cross-border markets.

International Ecommerce Markets

A Shortcut for Expanding into International ECommerce

If you don’t have the resources to build out separate websites for different countries, that doesn’t mean you can’t start to expand your eCommerce business on a global scale. Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Newegg are just some of the eCommerce platforms that offer US sellers the opportunity to connect with international buyers. You can also work with marketplaces based outside the US, such as Alibaba (China’s online retail giant) or its international offshoot AliExpress, Mercado Libre (the largest eCommerce site in Latin America), or Flipkart the biggest player in eCommerce in India), to name just a few.

In a blog post, Etsy reported that one seller got almost a fifth of her sales from overseas the year after she started offering international shipping. When you sell on marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay, all you have to do to become an international seller is accommodate international shipping in your shop. In most cases, you can decide which countries you will ship to. This will allow you to try out a few international sales before you add more countries to your repertoire.

You can find lists of international eCommerce sites online, and they are worth considering as part of your research and planning for taking your eCommerce business international.

Where is this Growth Happening?

In 2018, China’s eCommerce sales are expected to hit $672 billion, in US dollars. China presents the biggest opportunity for US eCommerce businesses to expand internationally, but it may not be the easiest market for US-based eCommerce businesses to expand into. US companies have to worry about price competition and knockoffs in the Chinese market. According to a survey by Pitney Bowes, the cost of shipping was the number one reason Chinese customers decided not to buy from international sellers, followed by long delivery time. Fulfillment to Asia can be a tough hurdle to overcome when you first expand your eCommerce business internationally.

Because of the distance from the US, plus the added difficulty of language and cultural barriers, China’s huge eCommerce market might not be the first stop on your route to global eCommerce dominance.

There are other countries that may be easier for US eCommerce businesses to break into. The UK has the third biggest eCommerce market, with $99 billion in sales. Japan, Germany, and France all have robust eCommerce markets that could be good expansion targets. South Korea, Russia and Brazil are also among the top markets for eCommerce sellers.

And don’t forget Canada, which is probably the easiest place for US eCommerce businesses to expand internationally, because of proximity, cultural similarities, and the ease of cross-border trade with our closest neighbor. Canada is a $30 billion online market and the low-hanging fruit for international eCommerce expansion by US brands.

Is Your eCommerce Business Ready to Go Global?

Not every US eCommerce business will do well in the international market. It’s important to consider the competition and need for your products in various countries before deciding where and how to expand.

You will also have to resolve questions about logistics before you invest in a new international sales channel. Plus, there is a business determination to be made about whether you have the resources you need to serve this new market.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Expanding to International ECommerce

Here are some questions to help you determine whether your eCommerce business is ready to expand internationally.

Will your product work in another country?

Before you invest in a new website and branding to appeal to, for example, German customers, you’ll need to do some research to determine if your product will work for the German eCommerce market.

You will have to answer some questions by trial and error, but you can eliminate a lot of uncertainty and save yourself money by doing research and understanding your new market before you dive in.

Can you ship it?

International shipping can be both expensive and slow. The expense, in particular, is a deterrent for shoppers in many countries, according to the Pitney Bowes survey.

Some eCommerce businesses choose to work with local shippers and warehouse their products in fulfillment centers close to their customers, for shorter shipping times and lower shipping costs. As you expand your eCommerce business internationally, this solution may make sense for you. At the beginning, however, you will probably want to work with your existing fulfillment resources while you test the market. Make sure your 3PL company will work with international shipping companies and find out which service offers the most reliable, fastest, and least expensive shipper to your destination country.

Don’t assume that high shipping cost is an insurmountable barrier to your entry into international eCommerce. If your product is unusual or hard to find in another country, customers may be happy to pay a higher shipping fee and wait patiently. Their reward will be receiving a product they can’t get at home.

Can you build cultural fluency?

If you sell floral beach coverups, are they too bright for Northern Europeans or do you offer a splash of color they crave and can’t find at home? Can you translate your sizing so German customers aren’t disappointed by getting something that doesn’t fit? Is the market for your product already saturated or is no one selling a product like yours in Germany because Germans won’t buy it?

If there isn’t yet a market for your products in another country, you could be a pioneer and own the niche for your items. That could require an investment of marketing dollars to educate your new customers and raise awareness. You’ll have to decide if you can afford the capital outlay, with the knowledge that there is a real risk of failure if the residents of the other country never warm to your product.

Another consideration is cultural sensitivity. Cultural references and jokes may not translate or may be taken very differently in Germany than the US. A product that residents of one country find indispensable could seem frivolous and wasteful to those in another.

Do you have the right technology?

You may need to make some technical changes to your eCommerce site to be compatible with sales to a foreign market. That could include expanding the types of payment you accept to include the preferred methods in your customers’ country.

One important aspect of going global, especially if you want to expand into developing nations like India and South Africa, is a mobile-friendly site. Mobile phone adoption rates are high in the developing world, and your customers are more likely to have internet access through a smartphone than a computer.

Can your operations handle international eCommerce?

Before you make the leap into international eCommerce expansion, consider whether your operations team can put the systems in place to handle the needs of international customers. Your customer service should be ready to respond in the customers’ time zone and language, if different from yours.

You should also make a plan to support the marketing channels you’ll need to reach cross-border customers. You might want to create a web portal and social media accounts for each international market. Consider ad buys that target your international customers as well. Your marketing team will need to be prepared to handle the extra work that comes with this international expansion.

Do you have a plan to deal with fraud?

All eCommerce businesses have to build trust with their customers. This is particularly important in cross-border eCommerce transactions. You need to assure your customers that you are for real and will deliver what you promise them.

You will need to be able to confirm that your customers are legitimate, as well. You’ll need a system to verify that international shipping addresses are real, to avoid costly mistakes and potential fraud.

If you’re ready to take your eCommerce business international, you open yourself to a huge growth opportunity. Not only do you gain access to a world of customers; you also build international relationships that can enrich your business. The cross-border cross-pollination of ideas and resources could lead to business opportunities you haven’t yet imagined.

If you feel that your eCommerce business has the resources on hand to take on the international marketplace, there are still a few more challenges to be aware of before you get started.

Understanding the Challenges of Expanding Your eCommerce Business Internationally

Expanding your eCommerce business internationally can be as simple as offering international shipping in your eBay store. But if you’re serious about connecting with customers in other countries and building an international following, you’ll need to do more to reach out to your cross-border market.

Here are some of the challenges to consider as you grow your global eCommerce empire.

Duties and taxes

You’ll need to understand the taxes you need to collect on sales to different countries. For example, sales to the UK must include that country’s VAT tax in the price. It’s the opposite of the US, where many states don’t allow retailers to list prices that include sales tax.

Some countries charge a duty when you ship orders over a certain dollar amount, and you may need to fill out customs forms for your orders. You’ll have to factor all these charges and the time needed to deal with these regulations into your plan and pricing for each country.

Language

Google Translate is pretty good, but you’ll need to do better if you want web pages that read well in the language of your target customers. Work with translators fluent not only in the language, but the culture and idioms of the residents of your target country.

Local customs

Even if you stick to markets that speak English, you’ll need to make sure your content speaks to your audience in each country and doesn’t include words or images that are offensive to local sensibilities.

Payment options

You’ll want to expand the types of payment you accept to include the preferred methods for each country you sell into. PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay have international reach, but you could lose sales if you don’t include your customers’ favorite options such as Alipay and UnionPay (China), Mercado Pago (Latin America), WorldPay (Latin America, Europe), and Skrill and SEPA (Europe).

Preferred Payments for International Ecommerce

Local currencies

Many online payment methods will allow customers to pay you in US dollars. However, confusion about your pricing could slow your international growth. You’ll increase your sales when you translate your prices into foreign currencies and accept payment in those currencies. Plus, if you want your business to fit in with local customs, pricing your products in the local currency will help you sell like a native.

Shipping options

As you prepare to sell internationally, set up accounts with carriers that best serve your target markets overseas. FedEx and UPS both offer international shipping, as does the US Postal Service. German-based DHL has long been a leader in cross-border freight. The best choice is delivery service that has the best penetration and most reliable service in the country you plan to sell to.

Customer service

If your customer service hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm in Boise, you’ll miss customer calls from Beijing or Brussels. Consider using a call center in the time zone of the country it serves. It’s also a good idea to use agents who speak that country’s language.

Providing customer service that’s responsive to international time zones, languages, and cultural expectations will get you positive reviews. And it will help your eCommerce business grow faster in international markets.

Returns

International customers will need to make returns, too. You’ll need to set up a system that allows customers to make and track cross-border returns and provide timely refunds.

Visibility

One of the biggest challenges when you expand your eCommerce business internationally may be learning how to make your eCommerce site visible in a variety of markets. This could also be one of the most fun and rewarding pieces of your international eCommerce expansion. Consider partnering with local resources to improve your reach in markets that are new to you.

The list of challenges can seem overwhelming. But ask yourself where you want your business to be in five or 10 years. Do you want to plod along with incremental growth? Or do you see yourself presiding over a thriving, international eCommerce enterprise? If it’s the latter, there’s no better time to start than now.

Top Tips to Build an International eCommerce Business

Here are four things that will put you on the right path to expanding your eCommerce business internationally. A little legwork up front will save you expensive headaches down the line.

1. Research, Research, Research

Once you’re ready to expand your eCommerce business internationally, your first step is research. This will help you figure out where it makes sense to expand and how to introduce your product to a new market.

Research which country might be most receptive to your products. You might be surprised by what you find out. Your best opportunities will be in countries with small, but growing niches for the goods you sell. Great tools for assessing market opportunities include Google Trends and Answer the Public.

You can also find tools to help you learn the ropes of selling internationally at the U.S. Small Business Administration and Export.gov.

Decide the best country for your entry into international eCommerce. Then learn as much as possible about your new market. Find out if there are certain cities or regions most suited to your initial launch. Make a list of national holidays and customs. Tailor your web presence and your message to your new customer base. This could include rebranding or repositioning some of your products for that country.

2. Plan Your Market Entry

Your eCommerce expansion will go better if you take time to plan it out. Make sure that you have all the pieces in place, such as payment methods for the local market. Optimize your website for mobile. Have your customer service team ready to spring into action when needed.

3. Plan Your Logistics

Work with your fulfillment provider to make sure your international shipping options are ready to go as soon as the orders roll in. This includes putting a plan in place so you can handle internationals returns without busting your profit margin.

4. Optimize Your Marketing Strategies

Social media that speaks to customers in your new market is an effective, inexpensive way to reach your new audience. Consider partnering with local consultants to make sure your message matches your market. Don’t be afraid to let your new customers know where you’re from, if that adds to the appeal of your eCommerce business. However, make sure you speak to them with a perspective that they will understand and appreciate.

Expand Locally, Sell Globally

You may hit some bumps in the road when you’re expanding your eCommerce business internationally. Your additional revenue will make it worthwhile. As shipping, payment, and communications channels become ever more globalized, international eCommerce will become the norm.

By being an early adopter, you can establish yourself in the international market while the opportunities to grow and compete are still broad.

International shipping requirements

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